The X Files Revisited: 4.23 Demons

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The X Files ran for nine seasons and two movies, charting the efforts of Agents Mulder and Scully in their search for the unexplained. Now eight years after the second movie The X Files: I Want To Believe, the show is returning for six new episodes in 2016. Here at The Digital Fix, we are going to work our way through each season, reviewing some of the big episodes – and both movies – across the years in the build up to season ten. With 202 episodes, there is simply too much to cover every episode; instead we'll pick the story highlights of each year. As we near the end of season four, Demon delves deep into Mulder's psyche and asks just how far will he go for the truth?

Is our hero guilty of committing murder? It's a trope many shows have used and this time it's The X Files turn. Mulder wakes up in a motel room, covered in blood that isn't his, with no memory of what happened. But Demons isn't another case of a hero being framed for murder by a villain out to get him; this is a far more interesting story that ties back into the abduction on Mulder's sister Samantha and the sordid past between his mother and the Cigarette Smoking Man first teased in the season three finale Talitha Cumi.

One of the more intriguing aspects of season four has been the mystery over what happened to Samantha. Mulder encountered a girl clone version of her in the season opener and came close to discovering that she was murdered by killer John Lee Roche in Paper Hearts. This time we discover he has been undergoing therapy to find out what happened to her - including why she was chosen over him. It is a theme that would be a big part of the upcoming Redux trilogy too.

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The best part of this episode is how we get there; the episode has another strong mystery for the audience to get into, something that on rewatch really sets the good episode of The X Files apart. Scully immediately rushes to help Mulder and like the viewer, they following the clues; the two shots fired from his gun, the blood on the steering wheel of the car rented to a David Cassandra. Amy Cassandra's paintings of a summer cabin Mulder and Scully find, a house Mulder claims to have visited in his childhood. And the gruesome discovery of the two Cassandra's, shot dead in that cabin only compounds the mystery and puts the finger of guilt towards Mulder.

But it is the flashes of dream and / or memory that are the real hook. We see an adult Mulder interact with his sister as his parents argue over which child is to be taken. And then the arrival of a younger Cigarette Smoking Man, played once again by Chris Owens. It is these glimpses into Mulder's past that causes him to realise the dreaded truth; his mother had an affair and there is a small chance that he might be the offspring of his greatest enemy. It is a memory that leads to an explosive confrontation with his mother; we have seen a caring, tender relationship between Mulder and Teena in the past but that is seemingly broken by the events that unfold in this episode.

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It is also a story that plays with the premise of the show; alien abductions. Earlier this season we got a great spin on a classic abduction story in Tempus Fugit / Max which saw a character abducted while on a flight and this time Demons deals with the trauma of abduction. The discovery of puncture wounds on Amy's body leads to the revelation that she is a former abductee and has been seeking experimental treatment from a Doctor Goldstein to uncover what happened to her. A treatment involving psychotropic drugs that led to troubled hallucinations and the death of her husband and herself at her hands. Added to this the death of a guard - also an abductee seeking treatment - and things take a very different if still dark turn.

Mulder's demons are those involving his sister and we soon learn that the events of this season have led him to seek the same treatment, something that has had a serious effect on his memory and mental state. While there is a certain relief as he is acquitted of any crime, the gripping nature of the episode continues to keep us hooked, particularly when Mulder returns to carry on his treatment. The sight of him willingly letting drill into his scalp is a chilling reminder of just how far he would go for the truth and the prelude to a bigger, but similar theme in the upcoming finale.

And while he learns the truth about his mother, he ends the episode none the wiser. But unlike some stories, this one works because of the unresolved nature of 'the case'. It gets to explore just how far Scully will go to clear his name and how far Mulder will push himself over the edge for answers. After four years, The X Files continued to surprise and grip audiences and that is why it is still great to rewatch after all these years. Next up is the season final Gethsemane, which draws season four to a close in epic fashion...

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The X Files

Chris Carter's The X Files was the cultural zeitgeist of the 1990s, turning Mulder and Scully into television heroes. With its mix of aliens, conspiracies, monsters and serial killers, it revolutionised cult television and returned for new six-part revival in 2016 and another 10 episodes in 2018. Check out our 'The X Files Revisited', reviewing key episodes from across all seasons and both movies and our weekly reviews of season 11.

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